Please Steal This House

Thieves use a foreclosure to pull off heist.

Miami Beach Police got the call just after lunchtime. There was a problem, a woman reported: Two thin, unfamiliar men were lurking in her neighborhood near Collins Avenue and 70th Street. They had parked between a yellow $1.1 million waterfront house and an abandoned tan bungalow, and were carrying furniture to their pickup truck. "The home is vacant," she told cops. "And no one should be [inside.]"

When officers arrived, they spotted Amaury and Antonio Hernandez — both 30-something Cuban nationals — lifting an expensive fish tank onto the bed of a maroon Ford F-150. One of the men "stated spontaneously he was from a moving company," according to the police report. Cops then called the owner of the yellow house — Gregory Collins, who was in California at the time — and discovered the men were not supposed to be there. Both were charged with burglary.

Collins later arrived at his Spanish-style pad and found nearly everything was gone, including a 300-hundred-gallon aquarium, a Sea-Doo wave runner, and a blue 40-foot $280,000 miniyacht.

"These guys cleaned me out," Collins, a 39-year-old marketing whiz, says with a defeated sigh. "It was a crime of greed."

After finding his possessions in the yard next door, Collins uncovered what he believes to be the makings of a ballsy recession-era con. "[The thieves] were living in the foreclosed home next door, storing my stuff," he explains.

Though it's not noted in police reports, Collins says investigators later found his photos, furniture, and clothes at a residence in Homestead. He has since gotten the boat back.

Adds neighbor Claudia Jimenez, who is now renting the home: "It's crazy. I can't believe they had the guts."

 
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